Jan Kalivoda

The Tradition of Manuscript of the Agnes’ Legend Candor lucis aeterne


The fate was not merciful to St. Agnes in the past and the endeavour to press her canonization through had failed several times throughout the centuries up to the year 1989. And the search for source materials able to inform on her life and activities was not more successful for long times. The Latin and Czech legends – witnesses of her cult that had been created during the 14th century vanished in hideaway libraries and remained unknown for many generations from the 15th century up to the counter-reformation times. Even then, when the Roman Catholic Church and the Franciscan order found its revival in Bohemia and abroad, authors of the new hagiographic texts written in honour of St. Agnes sought their older sources only with difficulties and in majority of cases, they were compelled to work all along. So far, we are rather uncertain about their sources and their mutual interdependence and Czech medieval and neo-Latin studies are confronted by a palpable problem here.

Moreover, the original hagiographic texts from the Middle Ages, devoted to St. Agnes, emerged very reluctantly from manuscript collections. The paper reconstructs the way, along which three extant medieval copies of the legend Candor lucis aeternae found their way to modern believers and scholars. The only critical edition of this important hagiographic text (and very influential and learned one), prepared by J. K. Vyskočil in the year 1932, has determined the common opinion on the mutual relations of those three surviving manuscripts of the legend. Motivated by scholarly and other factors, J. K. Vyskočil maintains that the “Milanese manuscript”, found and identified by the later pope Pius XI., is the oldest one of three extant texts and the source for both remaining exemplars. He supposed that this manuscript was probably copied intentionally for the process of canonization of St. Agnes, started at the beginning of the 14th century.

     The main part of the paper strives to verify this theory. The texts of all three testes were collated throughout Vyskočil’s critical edition and their variants were judged in compliance to the classic critical rules established by P. Maas.

     The result is that Vyskočil’s concept cannot be held, according to the view of the author of paper. The “Milanese manuscript” contains many errores separativi that exclude the possibility that both remaining testes would be copied from it – they give the correct text in the place of these evident errors of the “Milanese manuscript”. Numerous cases of this sort are discussed in detail in the paper. Other factors contradict the theory that the “Milanese manuscript” was the official document for a canonization action, too.

     If the specialized audience accepts this result, the task of assessing other manuscripts of the legend Candor lucis aeternae by the same method remains to be done.